If you’re considering a remodel, and especially if you’re looking to age in place, learn what visitability is and how it can benefit you and your loved ones.

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Q: My aging mother and newborn nieces and nephews love visiting our home, but we fear it’s not safe at times. How can we accommodate our extended family to minimize potential dangers and stress for all? 

A: Articulating a clear goal and vision for your home space will help clarify what you want to get from your remodel project when it’s time to talk with design and construction firms.

Defining what you want with words (and even pictures or vision boards) can be challenging, especially if you’re undertaking your first remodel experience. This bit of challenge can yield a longer-lasting project, and this term may help: visitability.

Visitability is a gauge. Incorporating visitability design elements during your remodel will make your home more … well, easy to visit. Easy not only to approach and enter, but also to stay and socialize. Components of a visitable house include:

  • A clear exterior and interior path.
  • One zero-step entrance.
  • Doorways and hallways that are wide enough to navigate through easily (for scooters, wheelchairs, crutches, etc.).
  • A bathroom that is located on the main floor and large enough to easily use by the person with additional mobility requirements without any more support or care than they typically use.

In terms of your home and your potential remodel project, let’s think about you and your loved ones specifically, while taking a fresh look at your current space. Consider these scenarios:

Are you starting a family? Once you have a stroller, a baby, a bag or two and a dog, how will it feel to navigate several steps to each door? Could you use a no-step entrance as one of your entry points?

Do you have relatives close by and a yen to host Thanksgiving Day gatherings or holiday parties? As your relations age (and as you age, too), how will they get to and through your home?

Does anyone in your family or friend circle have additional mobility requirements due to multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy? What’s the plan to get them in and comfortable should they come for a visit?

What about those around you (and let’s include you as well)? Would a more visitable home improve your quality of life or that of your family? Picture the same home, same loved ones and yourself 10–20 years into your future.

Perhaps in the future your kids have finished or are finishing college, or have moved out, and their ground-floor room is unoccupied. Let’s also say the room is not already needed for crafts, a game room or storage. The room could be made to accommodate an elder parent in that future, couldn’t it?

Or, maybe you’re just ready for a bigger bathroom, a no-stairs walkway to the back door and wider doorways? It works in hotel rooms and feels wonderfully spacious, doesn’t it? Who knew that these few changes could also positively impact a friend or relation?

Have you considered that improved visitability could also be a positive selling point? When it’s time for you to move on from your current home, and you’ve got easier access, a larger bathroom and wider passages throughout your home, it’s going to appeal to more people — especially if those new owners are looking for a home they can stay in for a long time to come.

Visitability really has more to do with improving the quality of life, not only for who is living in the home but also for those who come to visit and connect.

 

Paul Kocharhook is a certified aging-in-place specialist and owner of Pathway Design & Construction in Seattle. He is also a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.